Marilyn Gardner Woods
"I'm fixin' to get into some trouble. You comin'?
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
I know they consider me a foreigner…
And maybe I am.
In a way, they are too.
Those Texas girls.
I return to my stomping grounds there once a year for a reunion with my college girlfriends,
Samy pledge class. Each time we’re together, an adage comes to mind. “If you love Texas
women raise your glass. If not, raise your standards.”
There were twenty-nine of us in the beginning; twenty-five still standing. We came together fresh out of high school from all parts of the state to begin our university experience together in Lubbock, home of Texas Tech University, the Red Raiders, and our sorority Pi Beta Phi.
We are now much wiser women whose friendships began so long ago in our wonder years. We are mothers, lovers, teachers, artists, storytellers, political activists, educators, musicians, writers, ranchers, and way too many of us are widows. Three since the pandemic began and the last time we were together.
I don’t live in Texas now and haven’t for decades, but my heart is still there. For the most part, my friends are all still Texans—Big city girls from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Angelo, Lubbock, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio. And smaller colorful spots like McQueeney, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, Frisco, Plano, and Argyle.
Stepping back into Texas is like visiting a foreign land. But then, so is visiting New York or North Carolina or Utah. Certainly, my California is vastly different from the other forty-nine.
In Texas, there is a wide-open feeling throughout the state.
Texans speak differently—a kind of a dreamy drawl kind of language.” Y’all come.” “I’m fixin’ to…” or “This ain’t my first rodeo!”
A few of my personal favorites:
Let’s hallelujah the county.
He’s a three-jump cowboy.
Never sign nothing by neon.
Two hoots and a holler away.
He chamber-of-commerced it.
Only in Texas do they turn Chamber of Commerce into a verb!
I can still hear my dad say, “Were you raised in a barn, girl?” each time I’d walk out the door without closing it.
Without a doubt, one of the best, if not the best, magazines in the world is the extraordinary Texas Monthly- which I have subscribed to ever since I left the state. One of the greatest issues from 1997 featured a ninety-nine-year-old woman rancher, Hallie Stillwell, who grew to be a living symbol of "West Texas in its wild and woolly days.
One of the magazine's writers wrote about the language that is Texas, “Common as cornbread, old as dirt, funny as all get-out—homespun expressions link modern Texans to our rural and agricultural past, conveying the resolute spirit and plainspoken humor of our heroes and pioneers. Some sayings are instantly familiar because our parents or grandparents quoted them; others parallel the indisputable wisdom of biblical proverbs or Poor Richard’s Almanac; plenty just make us laugh.”
Click here forTexas Monthly’s entertaining samples of other axioms and adages-and art- common to the state—a collection “as big as all hell and half of Texas.”
In Texas, folks seem to move in a slower, more rhythmic manner, a pokey pace that allows for enjoying the sights. Sauntering along in a bowlegged kind of gait. A sort of ambling. They dance that way too. Two-steppin' smooth and slow across the dance floor to romantic songs like “I Just Want to Dance with You” by either George Strait or John Prine, “Save the Last Dance," by Emmylou Harris, or my all-time favorite “Neon Moon” by Brooks and Dunn.
Feisty former Texas Governor, Ann Richards, bragged, "There is a special mystique to Texas. Texans represent many things to the uninitiated: we are bigger than life in our boots and Stetsons, rugged individualists whose two-steppin' has achieved world-wide acclaim, and we were the first to define hospitality."
My college girlfriends do two-step but don’t wear boots often, although there’s most certainly a pair or two in their closet. Eel skin, suede, leather, croc, or a paint blossom design perhaps. Texas girls love their silver and turquoise. Even a conch belt every now and then. Concho belts are among the most striking pieces of Native American Indian jewelry almost always made of sterling silver with hand-stamped designs, often set with stones of turquoise, lapis, or coral. Janice, my BFF in Dallas owned four until recently when a burglar made off with her entire collection which she had stored in a canvas bag under clothes. “At least they had to look for it,” she quipped.
No cowgirl hats for this group; hat head not allowed. Perfectly coiffed for the most part. If the wind tends to blow, they tend to hunker down inside.
Kelly Clarkson, the Grammy-winning mega-star, constantly boasts about her Texas upbringing. “In Texas, we practically come out of the womb in jeans,” she joked in a television interview. I wear jeans more often than my Texas pals do, although this time Alice Ann’s exquisite, embroidered denim jacket looking much like a textile art installation stunned me. Fabulous in that understated Texas fashion!
The fare in Texas is beyond compare. Slurp-delicious barbeque, fried okra, Perini Ranch peppered beef tenderloin, (order right now!) Blue Bell ice cream, sweet tea, and Dr. Pepper (hot or cold). Chicken fried steak and gravy, New Year’s Day black-eyed peas, Frito Pie, and Tex-Mex anything. It’s said that Texans have figured out how to have Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As young girls before heading off to Texas Tech, we all learned to make pecan pie from the recipe on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle. The very British non-Texan, Alistair Cooke, observed "Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them. It congratulates you, on your arrival, at having escaped from the slop pails of the other 49 states."
What really touches me down deep when I return to this circle of friends each year can’t be purchased or collected. It’s what we share. They remember so much that I have forgotten about my salad days in the great state. And I fill in some gaps for them too.
“Remember when we…” or
“I’ll never forget the time we…” or
“I can still see you all fixin’ to…”
They fill in blanks for me. Having lived in nine different states and dozens of houses since we romped across campus through West Texas dust storms—massive walls of flying dirt and sand with winds clocked at 70 mph—I have forgotten so much. The hard drive in my head can only hold so much before it starts kickin’ stuff out the back end.
Our storytelling star, Donna Ingham, (you must check her out!) recounted the slight sophomoric hazing practice of us freshman pledges gathering signatures from the often-evasive active members which I had managed to block from my memory. In her magical drawn-out utterances, which morph into an even more prolonged drawl when she takes the stage, she offered, “Yep, McDougal made me climb up on the Will Rogers statue before she’d give me her signature.”
I didn’t believe her.
She sent proof.
When I’m hanging out in this magnificent Texas-ness, I am reminded not only why I love my Texas upbringing, but also how it has shaped me and contributed to my life. How I view the world and how grounded in my values I am; Texas provided a firm foundation for me. Nelson Mandela said it better. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
This time I was with my college crew less than twenty-four hours, chili, the official state dish, for dinner, biscuits, and gravy for breakfast along with non-stop storytelling, not a lot of trouble considering the free-flowing wine, lots of laughter, and touching remembrances.
When I’m away from the Lone Star State these days in California, there is so much Texas-shaming going on. In politics and the culture climate mainly. Almost enough to make me shut up about my home state. Yes, there is a lot going on in Texas that disappoints, even alarms me. But when I’m “home” over “yonder” with my longtime friends whose values are the same as mine, my pride in Texas is completely restored!
And briefly, I am no longer a foreigner.
It’s like John Steinbeck wrote, “Texas is a state mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”
How on earth could I have forgotten? My friend, Gail, sent my blog to her cousin, Rhonda in Texas. Her reply: Thank you for sending this! I really enjoyed it. You did send me her book, it was very good. I do love Texas. Just like Lyle Lovett’s lyrics… “That’s right you’re not from Texas, that’s right you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.”
So sorry Lyle. MW
I am so glad you got to go to Texas this year.
You are fabulous at keeping up with people and collecting stories!
Beautiful, Marilyn! Thanks for capturing all that is good about Texas and remarkable friendships. DCI
This is just wonderful!!
I so envy you your gang and they’re a damn good looking group of gals! GVL
Thank you for your story about Texas and your friendships. It softened my view and even polished the image. In gratitude, Connie
Love hearing about another reunion with Texan BFF ‘s. Short but Sweet , look forward to more. Saskatchewan & Texas must have had ties beside dust storms, ie ‘’ grandkids wonder why I think they might have been born in a barn.”🐓
Glad your back, Mpr
I'm happy you've enjoyed your travels! Your "account" about Texas is just marvelous! I've never been there, but read a lot, and will go at the first opportunity. OD
Marilyn, I am waiting for my Jeep Cherokee to have four new tires put on, and I finally got a chance to read your last two blogs - about baseball and Texas Women, and I loved both of them!
Tom was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, so when we moved to L. A. in 1963 and the Brooklyn Dodgers were now the L.A. Dodgers, we attended a lot of baseball games! Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maurey Wills were the big names! Since Sandy pitched a lot of no-hitters, things could get a little boring, so I started people watching! The most interesting person in the stands was the "peanut man"! He never handed the peanuts to anyone - instead he threw them - almost as artistically and accurately, and sometimes as far, as Sandy threw the ball, and the people would pass their money to him. I was mesmerized and Tom was a little disappointed that I wasn't as excited about Sandy!!
And if course, I loved The Texas Women because it was about us! You did a great job of describing us and our unique relationship with each other after all these years. I also enjoyed your explanation of the loved foods and the "language". When we moved to NY right after we married, I felt like I was learning a new language! They said dish towel instead of cup towel, slippers instead of house shoes, bag instead of sack, and laundromat instead of washateria. Even Tom questioned the last one,until we drove to TX one year and as we entered Denton, in large letters on top of a building, a big sign said WASHATERIA!!! I loved it when I was right!! SSS